5 tips to feel more confident whilst speaking Dutch

5 tips to feel more confident whilst speaking Dutch

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Still not feeling confident when it comes to your Dutch language skills? Albert Both from Talencoach gives us a few tips!

What is the thing that people need most when they want to speak Dutch fluently? The answer that I - as a language coach - hear most of the time is: confidence. Most people believe that if they somehow felt more confident, speaking Dutch would be a lot easier.

It makes sense, right? If you feel more confident, then, of course, it will be easier to speak Dutch better. This is exactly why I would like to share the following five tricks with you, so that you can experience more confidence whilst speaking Dutch.

1) Understand that not feeling confident could be an important signal

Many people believe that speaking a new language would be easier if you felt confident. It makes sense, but there is something important that most people forget. Let’s start with a question: would you feel confident enough to say “goedemorgen” (good morning) in Dutch? Hopefully, your answer will be yes.

So, here is something interesting to think about. What makes you feel so confident about this situation? It might have something to do with the fact that you have said it many times already. It is not that difficult. It is easier than buying milk at the supermarket.

So, here is an important insight. Confidence is the logical result of experience. If you do something again and again, and if you know that you are doing it right, you don’t have to feel insecure about it anymore. Confidence will automatically follow once you have done a certain thing successfully for a couple of times.

Here is the thing. If you don’t feel confident, it might be a signal that you need to be more alert. You still have to learn a little bit longer. That is all. Once you truly understand the meaning of this signal, it will be easier for you to play with the Dutch language.

If you say things correctly, you’ll notice that you did it right. If you do it wrong, you simply know that you have to adjust certain things.

Although it is hard for many people to imagine, too much confidence can actually be a huge obstacle for success. If you feel confident for no reason, it is easy to get stuck. If people erroneously believe that they have learned everything, they often stop learning.

Another way to put it is like this: normally a fool feels much more confident than a wise person. If you are wise enough, that feeling of doubt or insecurity will probably stay, because there is always something that you could learn.

The trick is to truly appreciate all the things that you have achieved already, whilst knowing that there are still many things that you can learn. If you have this mindset, you will be unstoppable!

2) Don’t make perfection your goal when speaking a new language

When most people try to say something in a new language, they try to practice what they have studied or memorised and their first goal is to say it perfectly. If you somehow make a mistake or if you don’t understand certain things, it often feels that somehow you have failed.

The sad news is that if your goal is to say it right, if your first goal is perfection, you will probably be disappointed within five seconds. Before you know it, you will make a mistake.

Luckily, there is something better that you can do. Instead of going for perfection, you can make your primary goal learning new things. And if you make a new mistake, it automatically means that you learn new things. If you learn new things, you will get better and you’ll feel far more competent.

Another great goal is speaking Dutch so that you can show your appreciation of the language to Dutch people. Show that you are really interested in their culture and chances are high that you’ll receive positive reactions, even if they are subtle. You might see a smile or maybe you can feel a different connection somehow. When you start to notice these things, it is far easier to feel motivated to keep moving forward.

3) Appreciate your progress, even if it seems small or insignificant

Whenever I work with my students, I can always see that they are moving forward. My students can often see that their classmates are moving forward. But strangely enough, they find it harder to notice their own progress.

The reason for this is simple. By nature, we have a tendency to look at all the things that are missing. We tend to look at all of the things that still need improvement and this can be a very overwhelming feeling.

On top of that, in the beginning, progress may be very small. Just like everything else in nature, growth starts very slowly and if you are observing it too closely it seems that nothing is happening. But of course, this is not true.

One small sign of progress that most people overlook is when they discover that Dutch is quite close to English. Or that, somehow, they are not afraid of Dutch anymore.

Quite often, if you play with Dutch in a fun way, the language will start to feel more natural. Are you able to read more items on “een menukaart” (a menu)? That would be progress. Can you say: “ik wil een stroopwafel?” (I want a stroopwafel) This is a positive sign!

Here is the thing. If you appreciate all your progress, even if it is small, somehow you will feel lighter. There are many things that you will learn in a subconscious way, so quite often you don’t even notice all the things that you have learned. But if you stay positive, soon enough, progress will come in a much bigger way.

4) Appreciate other people when they speak your language

Here is another great technique: appreciate other people when they speak English (or your language to you), especially when they make mistakes.

In my opinion, too many native English-speaking people take for granted that other people speak English. Chances are high that somehow you have started to believe that speaking another language is something that anyone can do, but this is not the case. One of the things that you can do is to notice when people make mistakes.

For example, Dutch people always want to “learn” you things, because “leren” in Dutch is both to learn and to teach. Now, instead of just thinking (maybe in secret): this mistake is so stupid, just do the opposite. Start appreciating all the efforts that this person has made to speak your language and accept that saying “I learn you” is not so stupid from a Dutch perspective.

The great thing is this: if you appreciate other people whilst they make mistakes, you will also be a lot kinder to yourself. A lot of the pressure that you are putting on yourself will disappear. Often, how you feel about others, is also how you feel about yourself…

5) Don’t look for approval from Dutch people

When you are trying to speak Dutch, it would be nice to hear that you are doing a great job from Dutch people, right? Although it is always nice to get compliments now and then, there is some sad news. Most Dutch people don’t know anything about their own language so, for them, it is hard to see all the effort that you have put in into saying things correctly.

Many Dutch people can only say that you have said things wrong, but somehow, they can never help you correct it. They love to say that Dutch does not have rules and that you just need to pick it up in a natural way. A lot of Dutch people simply don’t know how to support you in a positive way. If you accept this, it can already be a great relief.

With this in mind, it is important that you find someone who can help you. A person that can give you guidance and clarity and that can truly encourage you to continue your Dutch language adventure.

More rewarding than you think

Last but not least, when most people say that they do not always feel confident whilst speaking Dutch, they often admit that this lack of confidence also happens in other contexts. This is actually great news! It means that if you manage to speak Dutch more confidently, this confidence may transfer to other areas of your life as well.

Speaking a new language can be very confronting sometimes, but if you do it successfully, it means that you have overcome certain obstacles. It means that you found some new strengths within yourself, which can also be very useful in other situations. This is why being confident whilst speaking Dutch could be more rewarding than you ever imagined!

Albert Both is a specialist in learning Dutch fast whilst having fun. Sign up for his free workshop "Finding Dutch Flow: Opening The Floodgate to Dutch Fluency" on Sunday, September 16, 2018, in Amsterdam.

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Albert Both


Albert Both

I help with an approach of learning Dutch that is completely different from any other language course. It is called Dutch Brainwashing. The immediate result is that you learn at...

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